Health Reform Marks Beginning of Gen X Healthcare

Elyas Bakhtiari, for HealthLeaders Media , July 16, 2009

Or look at Beau Batton, MD, a 33-year-old neonatologist who wants to eventually be director of a neonatal intensive care unit. Batton practices medicine much like his father—also a physician, and his boss as chief of neonatology at Southern Illinois School of Medicine—and sounds almost like a Baby Boomer when he analyzes how resident work-hour restrictions are creating physicians who think of medicine as shift work.

The point is, the dividing lines between the generations are neither thick nor static. This is true outside of medicine as well. It wasn't long ago that online social networking sites were considered the playthings of teenagers. Now, users over 55 are the fastest growing demographic on Facebook, and nearly every business seems to have a Twitter account.

There is some universality to this dynamic—generations have always been shaped by both those that precede and follow them—but there is also something unique this time. The rate of technological innovation has accelerated the pace of change so that it doesn't take long to lose touch.

That's why it's crucial that younger and older doctors focus less on what they don't like about each other and more on what they can learn from one another. Baby boomer physicians can provide a lot of guidance to younger doctors who are still learning the ropes of patient care and the business of medicine. And Gen X and Y docs can help older physicians adjust to what may soon be an unfamiliar healthcare system.

I argue in the magazine article that if healthcare reform passes, it will mark the beginning of the post-Boomer healthcare system. Many of the goals of reform—greater use of IT, emphasis on evidence-based medicine, focus on care coordination and interconnectivity—play to younger physicians' inherent strengths and medical training.

But that doesn't mean Baby Boomer practice styles and values go out the window. The healthcare system is undergoing dramatic change, and the physicians that have the easiest time adjusting will have help and guidance from peers of all ages.

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Elyas Bakhtiari is a freelance editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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